Education leaders came together in Collier County to talk about the county’s diverse educational landscape from technical training to early education and more.
The county’s priorities include early learning and career and technical education.
“Early learning is the foundation for all learning,” said Susan Block, CEO of Early Learning Coalition of SWFL.
Meanwhile, career and technical education is critical to the economy, according to Yolanda Flores, administrative director of Lorenzo Walker Technical College.
Collier County schools Superintendent Kamela Patton hopes making these priorities clear will help close the learning gap made larger by the pandemic.
“I think a lot of people forget that time has a bigger effect than what people know,” Patton said. “We can still see we’re not where we were even a year ago, and that was already behind from not having been in school so that learning loss is real.”
Sammi Treglown, whose child attends school in Collier County, said she hasn’t noticed her daughter or son fall behind but said the pandemic hurt in other ways.
“I think maybe more emotionally, honestly. Because, yes, they’ve been around their friends. Yes, they know how to act. But like, a lot of times they get overwhelmed,” Treglown said. “After being at school all day, and they come home, that’s when they really like, dump on you essentially, like how busy things have felt during the day, maybe teachers are trying to catch up with, you know, things that they need to get done by a certain date.”
Teachers are trying to play catch up because many kids did fall behind during the pandemic.
“What I want to do is make sure people know that’s not resolved just because the kids are back and it’s their choice to wear a mask, those gaps are still there,” Patton said. “It’s still going to be getting those losses mitigated because you had kids in high school that now did not pass courses at the rate they always pass.”
To fix that, Patton said the focus is on mentoring, afterschool programs, and working with community partners will help students.
“We need to expose them to career. And then from there, we must continue on into the middle school years continue to get them excited about learning,” Flores said.